East meets West

April 29, 2011

China and Europe join together for clean energy at EC2

Brussels - High-level European and Chinese representatives gathered at the European Parliament on April 12, 2011 for 'Low-Carbon Economy Challenges and the Europe-China Energy Centre'. The meeting marked the first anniversary of operations for the Europe-China Energy Centre, or EC2. (Click HERE to view all of the presentations from the April 12 event.)

HIGH-POWERED SOLUTIONS: The EU and China embark on a new energy partnership. Photos courtesy of EC2

The Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC) organised this event, in cooperation with the University of Calabria and EC2, within the framework of Sustainable Energy Week, Europe's key event focusing on a more sustainable energy future. The meeting provided an opportunity to bring together top representatives from the Chinese National Energy Administration and Ministries of Commerce, Science, and Technology & Industry, as well as academia, with representatives from the European Parliament.

The opening session was chaired by Corrado Clini, General Director the Italian Ministry for the Environment, Land and Sea, and REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti-Bonifert. Three European MPs also participated in this session. Elisabetta Gardini, Zita Gurmai and Edit Herczog spoke about three key pillars for the future: competitiveness, resource security and sustainability.

TALKING POINTS: EC2 panellists (L-R) Elisabetta Gardini, Ding Zhimin, Zita Gurmai and Marta Szigeti-Bonifert.
The panel session featured DG Energy representative Georgette Lalis, who spoke about areas of cooperation between Europe and China in terms of energy policies and forming partnerships. Ding Zhimin followed with a presentation on China's energy policies and regulations pertaining to sustainability and emission reductions. Representatives from a Chinese solar photovoltaic company, the Climate Group and University of Turin spoke on behalf of the private sector, the NGO sector and higher education.

Shared concerns, common goals

The EC2 meeting highlighted the fact that China and Europe both depend heavily on oil and gas and are experiencing compounded impacts from climate change; thus there is a need for both China and Europe to build efficient, low-carbon economies to reduce dependence on fossil fuels, and this will involve seeking alternative sources of energy.

EC2_DingAccording to the World Energy Outlook report for 2010, China's energy demand is projected to rise by 75% between 2008 and 2035, by which time China is expected to account for 22% of global demand. This development has, however, "paved the way for [China's] introduction of clean energy solutions," EC2 co-directors Shi Dan and Alessandro Costa claim in EC2's inaugural newsletter. "China is already making great strides in the field of clean energy, understood as a mix of clean coal, biofuels, renewable energy sources, efficient energy consumption and sustainable and efficient distribution systems."

Already having emerged as a world leader in renewable energy production, "China is pursuing a programme to increase the share of energy from non-fossil fuels in primary energy consumption to 15%, and to reduce carbon intensity to between 40% and 45% (of 2005 values) by 2020," say Dan and Costa, stressing that "boosting the share of innovative clean energy technologies - on both the supply and demand sides - is critical."

FULL HOUSE: Delegates tune in to the EC2 panel discussion.

The EU faces similar energy challenges, the EC2 co-directors argue, "including the need to tackle the environmental consequences of energy supply. Although different approaches have been taken to implement policies and actions, the renewal of the EU energy sector may require an investment of EUR 1 trillion over the decade."

Results to date, however, are encouraging, even during the current economic downturn. Underlying this success, say Dan and Costa, is "the resolve of EU member states to rely on clean energy and the advanced technologies behind it to meet European energy efficiency and energy-saving targets."

Building on cooperation initiated in 1994 by the European Commission and the Chinese Government, the EU and China are currently involved in multi-sector dialogues, and clean energy issues are being discussed at EU-China summits.

Of course, to achieve this united vision for a more sustainable future, policy makers and businesses need to work together, and part of this involves governments establishing frameworks that will encourage the development of a global market in low-carbon and energy-efficient goods and service. The business community, in turn, can help to design and implement these policy frameworks.

One year and counting

In April 2010, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Zhang Guobao, head of China's National Energy Administration, witnessed the launch of the Europe-China Clean Energy Centre, based in Tsinghua University. "The launching of the Centre, another flagship of our cooperation, is a major step in our common efforts to shape a more sustainable, environment-friendly and efficient-energy sector," Barroso said during the launch event.

EC2_BookletThe Europe-China Clean Energy Centre was established by the European Commission and the Chinese National Energy Administration and Ministry of Commerce. EC2 was launched as a five-year project (2010-2015), and is managed by a consortium of highly qualified Chinese and European partners. The EC2 project aims to promote and develop clean energy use in China, while at the same time contributing to high-level cooperation between European and Chinese institutions in sectors such as clean coal, carbon capture and storage, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, and sustainable and efficient distribution systems.

Through various sector initiatives, EC2 supports the Chinese Government's efforts to shape a more sustainable, environmentally friendly and efficient energy sector. All EC2 activities are aimed at promoting the wider introduction and adoption of innovative or infrequently used clean technologies through a combination of research and technological analysis, and through the identification and dissemination of technological needs, potential projects, best practices and partnership opportunities.

This unique consortium, according to the EC2 newsletter, has "developed a work plan incorporating four fundamental areas of activity: advanced technology transfer; policy advisory services; capacity-building activities; and awareness-raising events for all stakeholders."

Silvia Vaghi, Gamze Celikyilmaz-Aydemir and Nathan Johnson contributed to this article.